BRUSSELS - European Union officials hoped to sketch out a Brexit deal with Britain within hours, but negotiations stretched into early Wednesday in the latest effort at producing an agreement in more than three years of false starts and sudden reversals.
The bloc said it might be possible to strike a divorce deal by Thursday's EU leaders' summit, which comes just two weeks before the U.K's scheduled departure date of Oct. 31. One major proviso: The British government must make more compromises to seal an agreement in the coming hours.
Britain and the EU have been here before - within sight of a deal only to see it dashed - but a surge in the British pound Tuesday indicated hope that this time could be different. The currency rose against the dollar to its highest level in months.
Even though many questions remain, diplomats made it clear that both sides were within touching distance of a deal for the first time since a U.K. withdrawal plan fell apart in the British House of Commons in March.
Still, talks that first lingered into Tuesday night turned into negotiating past midnight as no deal materialized between experts from both sides holed up at EU headquarters in a darkened Brussels.
Late Tuesday, Martin Schirdewan, a German member of the European Parliament's Brexit Steering Group, said an agreement was ``now within our grasp'' following a breakthrough in negotiations.
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